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How Does Hardy Present Bathsheba In ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’?

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Introduction

English GSCE Coursework: How does Hardy present Bathsheba in 'Far From the Madding Crowd'? Explain how she changes in the course of the novel (considering where possible and relevant Hardy's view of women as you become aware of it.) Thomas Hardy portrays Bathsheba at the start of "Far from the Madding Crowd" as an individual, independent and spirited young woman. I think Hardy admires her character as it is made quite clear throughout the novel that she is far from being a conventional woman of the day, and there is much to admire and like in her. However, as the novel progresses we become aware that Hardy has many chauvinistic ideas about women as a whole and makes some rather sweeping generalisations about the entire race of womankind. Despite Bathsheba's unconventiality in some respects and the fact that Hardy actually says she is unlike women as a whole, Hardy has instilled in her many attributes and character faults which he considers to be exclusively women's, or at least extremely common among women, and as a result Bathsheba's character can be very contradictory. From her very first appearance we are given a first impression of Bathsheba's character and a foresight into the effect she will have upon the characters of the book. She is described as "young and attractive" and is wearing red, a colour suggestive of danger and excitement. She attempts to assert her independence by refusing to pay the keeper of the toll gate two pence more, yet when Oak, in a gentlemanly act of kindness, pays for her, she snubs him because "in gaining her a passage he had lost her point". Here is one of the first examples we come across in the novel of Hardy adding to Bathsheba's character faults belonging to a 'typical woman'. Hardy says of Bathsheba's behaviour in this situation, "we all know how women take a favour of this kind", implying that women are ungrateful when they feel they have not gotten their way. ...read more.

Middle

She also sees the very intensity of his emotions, realises she is out of her depth, and has wisdom enough to be careful of his feelings. Feeling as she does earlier in the novel that Oak is "not quite good enough" for her, it is not hard to refuse him bluntly and honestly, yet she is intimidated and overwhelmed by the dignified Boldwood baring his very soul to her with a passion few thought him capable of. Bathsheba is "frightened as well as agitated at his vehemence" and she is influenced by guilt into not entirely refusing him. When Boldwood comes to propose again Bathsheba finds it impossible to say no to him. Her cheeks "had lost a great deal of their healthful fire" and she speaks in a "trembling voice quite unlike her usual self confidence." Bathsheba's strength of character and will cannot stand up to Boldwood's pressure, and her resolve simply buckles under the pressure of his demands and the sympathy and guilt she feels for inflicting this upon him. An incident which does not reflect well upon Bathsheba's character is her argument with Gabriel Oak when he attempts to lecture her about her treatment of Boldwood. Her temper gets the better of her when he reprimands her for leading Boldwood on and, pettily, she fires him for it. In this situation it is he who is calm and in control whereas she acts childishly, petulantly even. When her sheep are dying and the only one who can have them is Oak, she stubbornly declares, "never will I send for him - never!" and as if to punctuate the remark a ewe promptly leaps dramatically into the air nearby and falls down dead. The situation is amusing in its very absurdity. Bathsheba is forced to relent and sends for Oak, who unfortunately for Bathsheba chooses also to be stubborn and demand a proper, civil request. ...read more.

Conclusion

Only two years ago she was a romping girl and now she's this." Bathsheba withdraws and shuns everyone and she is so different from the carefree, naive Bathsheba of two years before as to be completely unrecognisable. She shows great kindness in burying Troy with Fanny and erecting a stone for him; I think she has no more bitterness left in her for them. Bathsheba "did not laugh readily now" as she has been truly tamed and subdued. It is only when Oak intends to leave that Bathsheba finally comes to appreciate his full worth. In a display of her usual contrariness, it is only when she realises what she would lose if Oak left that she realises how she feels. Typical of Hardy, it is only through an action of Oak's that she comes to realise this, not through her own intelligence. Also typical of Hardy, she could not simply overcome her pain alone, there had to be Oak there the whole time, watching over and helping her, and in the end, everything is basically solved by their love and marriage. On the whole I admire Bathsheba's character and I can accept the faults Hardy gives her, because they make her more real. However, what I find hard to accept is that Hardy claims most of her good points are rare in most women, and that in general her bad points are those possessed by all women. For every good attribute Hardy bestows upon his heroine, he also gives her some silly, weak or petty failing, most of which he claims are exclusive to women. Every independent word or deed of Bathsheba's is balanced out by another that is weak, desperate or needy. I dislike the fact that while the men in Bathsheba's life have clear cut bad points - Troy is the villain and Boldwood is the madman - Bathsheba as the woman has to be one with the petty little imperfections. I liked this novel, but it would have irked me a deal less had it lacked a good many of Thomas Hardy's cynical and chauvinistic comments. ...read more.

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